Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College amongst nationwide movement of college encampments protesting war in Gaza

Rian Nelson
Police create a barricade at each end of Boylston Street from Piano Row to the Little Building and continue to arrest students on Thursday, April 25, 2024. (Rian Nelson/Beacon Staff)

Updated on April 27 at 5:58 p.m.

Beginning last Sunday evening, Emerson College’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) built an encampment of tents, food stands, and blankets to show solidarity with the pro-Palestinian movement. The Emerson encampment joined a national movement of pro-Palestine organizations building physical encampments directly on or around college campuses. 

Many encampments, including Emerson’s, were additionally formed to show solidarity with over 100 Columbia University students who were arrested at their own encampment on April 18.

Emerson’s encampment would join another national movement on Thursday morning when Boston police and state police violently cleared the encampment and arrested 118 protesters. This became another instance of police action against pro-Palestine encampments. Other encampments that have resulted in arrests were present at Columbia, University of Southern California, University of Texas Austin, Yale, New York University, and the University of Minnesota. As news of arrests and campus turmoil spread over the week, more schools across the region have created their own encampments, including Northeastern, Harvard, and Brown.

Emerson’s ‘Popular University Encampment,’ which occupied the 2 Boylston Place alley for roughly 80 hours before its dismantling, advocated for the college to disclose financial investment information, divest from Israeli entities, denounce Israel’s military actions in Gaza, which have reportedly killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, and call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. 

No university has complied with protest demands so far, but negotiations continue at Columbia University between the administration and student leaders. On Monday night, members of Emerson SJP met with President Jay Bernhardt to discuss proposals, but their demands were summarily rejected.

The encampments around the country range in size, with some only being a couple of tents, while Columbia University houses several dozen tents on its West Lawn, where protesting moved after a previous NYPD raid. 

Encampments began appearing nationwide on Sunday, with NYU and Columbia University having some of the most built-up areas. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tufts University, and Emerson College began their encampments on the same day, with Harvard University and Brown University joining three days later. 

April 18 – Columbia University

Columbia President Minouche Shafik issued an order allowing the NYPD to sweep the encampment on campus, which led to the arrest of over 100 students. In her letter to the NYPD, Shafik wrote, “All University students participating in the encampment have been informed they are suspended.”

The group running the encampment is in contact with a legal negotiator, said Khymani James, a student leader involved with the movement. They declined, however, to share information regarding their negotiations

University administrators had until midnight on Wednesday to reach a deal with the encampment’s community leaders, but the deadline has been extended 48 hours to Friday. 

April 21, evening – Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University

Students of MIT’s Coalition for Palestine (C4P) created an encampment called “Scientists Against Genocide Encampment” near the Kresge Auditorium. MIT police have maintained a small presence near the encampment despite the college not providing any statement about the encampment at this time.

On April 26, MIT’s student newspaper, The Tech, reported that the encampment is still standing on its sixth day as of April 26 at 12:42 p.m.

At Tufts University, students put up tents as early as April 7 but took them down on April 17 to deal with working on a separate demonstration. Tufts also put their tents back up Sunday night to focus on supporting the arrests at Columbia University. The Tufts Daily reported that the encampment is still up and that Tufts SJP has its next event on Friday at noon.  

Emerson SJP reported a police presence at the Tufts encampment in the morning on April 26 and called for “Immediate Support Needed.”

April 22, 6 a.m. – Yale University

47 protesters were arrested on trespassing charges at an encampment known as “Occupy Beinecke” set up in the college’s quad at Beinecke Plaza early on Monday. The school said the arrested students face possible suspension.

April 22, 8:15 p.m. – New York University

NYPD officers arrested 120 protesters for trespassing due to their involvement in an encampment that was cleared by police at Gould Plaza on Monday night. While the encampment was on the NYU campus, it is believed that many of the protesters were not affiliated with the school.

The NYU head of security said administration officials witnessed “disorderly, disruptive, and antagonizing behavior” from the protesters.

April 23, 7 a.m. – University of Minnesota 

Protesters at the University of Minnesota began a tent encampment of Students For Justice in Palestine (SJP) members outside of Walter Library at 4 a.m. on Tuesday. At around 6:30 a.m., university police arrived on the scene and began reportedly “harassing” the encampment before arresting eight protesters at around 7 a.m.

April 23, 11 p.m. – University of Minnesota 

By Tuesday night, another encampment had been erected at the Coffman Memorial Union on the East Bank campus of the university. University police approached the encampment, and they notified students that they were violating campus policy and state trespassing laws. The encampment had disappeared by Wednesday morning, though no additional arrests were reported.

April 24 – Brown University

Early Wednesday morning, Brown University pro-Palestine protesters from the Brown Divest Coalition started their own “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on the campus’ Main Green. In addition to demands for divestment of the university endowment and “companies enabling and profiting from Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territory,” the group is calling for the administration to drop charges against 41 students who were arrested for participating in a pro-Palestinian sit-in on campus last December, the Boston Globe reported.

Students participating in the encampment were asked to present an ID so that they could be written up for violations of policy. They will face disciplinary hearings and were notified via email on Wednesday and Thursday.

April 24 – Harvard University

Harvard University’s encampment of over a dozen tents set up on Harvard Yard began on Wednesday and doubled in size as it entered its second day. The encampment was formed to call for the university to divest from Israel and in response to the suspension of the student group ​​Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee on Monday. Harvard restricted access to Harvard Yard on Sunday to only Harvard ID holders and was against bringing unauthorized structures, like tents, into the space. 

Campus administration began photographing student protesters’ IDs around 4 p.m. this afternoon, making them among the latest college administrators who are attempting to identify all protesters involved in their college’s encampment.

April 24 – University of Southern California

93 protesters were arrested at the University of Southern California on trespassing charges in a police offensive that began around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday in response to an encampment that was started by students in Alumni Park that morning. Police who donned riot gear cleared the campus of protesters and on-lookers by 9 p.m., and reports of rubber bullet use have emerged. A “check ID policy” was instituted to try to contain the protest earlier in the day. USC administration announced it would cancel its main commencement ceremony on Thursday in response to campus turmoil, and classes were given the option of being offered online that day as well.

April 24 – The University of Texas at Austin

57 people were arrested at the pro-Palestine encampment at the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday evening. University police and Texas state troopers, some on horseback and many in riot gear, were called to clean up the encampment by campus administration and Gov. Greg Abbott. All arrested students have been released from jail, and many have had their charges dropped on account of “deficiencies in the probable cause affidavits,” the Travis County Attorney’s Office reports.

April 25, 1:45 a.m. – Emerson College 

Emerson’s encampment was met with a swarm of Boston and state police coming from both sides of the 2 Boylston Place alley armed with riot gear at 1:45 a.m. on Thursday. 118 protesters were arrested in total, and SJP reports all have been released since.

April 25, 10:20 a.m. – Emory College

28 of more than 100 protesters were arrested at an encampment on the quad at Emory College’s Decatur campus in Atlanta, GA on Thursday morning. The encampment was set up early Thursday morning at around 7:30 a.m. Emory’s student newspaper, The Emory Wheel, reported the use of tear gas against protesters at around 10:20 a.m. this morning, and other media outlets reported gas usage as well as tasers and rubber bullets.

 April 25 – Northeastern University

A tent encampment was started on the Centennial Common in the middle of the quad at Northeastern University early Thursday morning. Formed just hours after the raid of the 2 Boylston Place encampment, the protesters came together under a spirit of apprehension and inspiration and after setting up tents in the middle of the grassy common. They formed a human chain by linking arms in a circle around the space to chant, beginning at 8 a.m. this morning. 

Similar to other protests on college campuses, administrators have warned protesters that participants without valid Northeastern IDs were trespassing and would have to leave, the Globe reported. Renata Nyul, a university spokesperson, explained that “the quads on the Boston campus are reserved for university events,” and thus the protest is in violation of campus policy, in a statement to The Huntington News, Northeastern’s student-run newspaper.

As the encampment grew over the course of the day, an active police presence, first university police and then Boston Police, was seen near the encampment. BPD officers approached the encampment at around 2:35 p.m. with riot gear and zip ties in an attempt to, as they said, determine which of the protesters were non-students.

Emerson SJP posted on Instagram urging Emerson students to show up in support of Northeastern’s encampment in response early yesterday afternoon, and on their Instagram story throughout the night and the next morning SJP asked for reinforcements at the Centennial Common.

A chant of “Don’t talk to cops, don’t show ID. Just link up, you are free” could be heard among students. At around 3 p.m., Boston police officers exited the Common to cheers from the protesters. University police remain at the scene.

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, in a statement of support for the encampment in The Huntington News, called for law enforcement to “exercise restraint” in their likely clearing of the protesters in the coming hours or days. 

April 26 – Northeastern University

The Northeastern encampment has now entered its second day, but reports continue of state police presence at the location. A representative from the state police told The Huntington News that “any decisions on any actions taken will be made by the university police,” and that the state police are just there to assist them.

Throughout the evening on Friday, tensions grew at the encampment over concerns of a possible police raid in the night. In a post to the Huskies for a Free Palestine Instagram, reports of a moving company being hired to assist state police in clearing the belongings of arrested protestors overnight were circulated, mobilizing protestors to form a human chain around the encampment circle in preparation for arrest.

At 10:16 p.m., a little over a dozen Emerson students who were also present at the Northeastern encampment to provide support left due to concerns about jail time in the event of arrest due to trespassing charges for being on the Northeastern campus. Many relocated to the Ruggles T stop to watch from a safe distance and on public property.

Around 11 p.m., a few Emerson SJP organizers and members returned to help provide support from outside the encampment by teaching those in the chain peaceful defense techniques, such as how to become dead weight in case of arrest.

Throughout the night, the presence of a dozen Israeli counter-protestors created more tension at the encampment. Encampment organizers repeatedly re-iterated to the crowd that “We do not engage with counter-protestors.” At 11:25 p.m., campus police escorted away two counter-protesters who had stood on the chairs that encircled the encampment holding an Israeli flag above the human chain and yelling at protestors as they chanted for over a half hour.

According to a Northeastern spokesperson in a statement on Saturday, the pro-Palestine protestors yelled “virulent antisemitic slurs, including ‘Kill the Jews,” while protest organizers said that it was the counter-protestors who yelled, “Kill the Jews.” 

Beacon reporters on the scene witnessed no slurs being used by the pro-Palestine protestors. The pro-Palestine protesters barely engaged with the counter-protesters. At one point, encampment organizers tried to clear a path for the counter-protesters to leave between the crowd before they were escorted out by police.

April 27 – Northeastern University

After midnight, the encampment settled in for the night, breaking the human chain and relaxing as the members of NUPD and BPD present switched shifts.

According to a Boston Globe report, Northeastern made the call to clear the encampment early Saturday morning and enlisted the State police to help them. At around 5:30 a.m., campus police, State police, and Boston police, some of them in riot gear, surrounded the encampment. They cleared the main square of the Centennial Common of protestors not behind the barricades as well as the press and instructed them to remain behind a metal barrier, according to The Wasp. By 7 a.m., police began taking down the encampment barricade and arresting protestors.

The Boston Globe reports that over 100 people were detained in the encampment sweep, but Renata Nyul, a university spokesperson, said that “protesters who produced a valid Northeastern ID were released to face university disciplinary proceedings rather than legal action.” They also reported that the “Northeastern operation did not appear to feature the same type of physical confrontations between police and protesters” as in the raid of the “Popular University Encampment” at Emerson earlier in the week.

The exact number of arrested individuals is unknown at this time. Encampments in the local area remain at Harvard, MIT, and Tufts.

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About the Contributors
Bryan Hecht
Bryan Hecht, News Co-Editor
Bryan Hecht (he/him) is a freshman journalism major from Havertown, Pennsylvania. He currently serves as an assistant editor of The Berkeley Beacon News section. Bryan also contributes to WEBN Political Pulse and hopes one day to work in broadcast news media. As a member of the Emerson Cross Country team, Bryan can likely be found on a run around the Boston area when he's not writing for the Beacon.
Sam Shipman
Sam Shipman, Assistant News Editor
Sam Shipman (He/Him) is a freshman journalism major from Natick, Massachusetts. He currently is a Staff Writer for the Berkeley Beacon. When he's not reporting he can be found listening to music or spending time with friends.

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